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1.2.5.Circumpositions
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[+]  I.  General introduction

Circumpositions are complex adpositions that may occur discontinuously, that is, of which some part precedes and some part follows the complement of the adpositional phrase. Some examples are given in (105), in which the two parts of the circumposition are given in italics. The first part of the circumposition is an element that can also be used as a regular adposition. This can but need not be the case for the second part; whereas door in (105b) can also be used as an adposition, this is not the case for heen in (105a).

105
Circumpositions
a. dat Jan over het hek heen sprong.
  that  Jan over  the gate  heen  jumped
  'that Jan jumped over the gate.'
b. dat Marie Peter tussen twee lessen door belde.
  that  Marie  Peter  between  two lessons  through  called
  'that Marie called Peter in between two lessons.'

Generally speaking, circumpositions have a spatial meaning, as in (105a), but (105b) shows that there are also temporal instances; cf. Section 1.3.2, sub III, for more discussion. Below we restrict ourselves to spatial circumpositional phrases, which can be used to indicate both a (change of) location and a direction; see Section 1.1.2.2 for these notions. This is clear from the fact that they can occur as the complement of both locational verbs and verbs of motion, as in (106a&b), and as the complements of verbs of traversing, as in (106c); see Section 1.3.1.4 for more discussion. See Claessen & Zwart (2010) for a detailed discussion of the semantics of circumpositions with heen.

106
a. Het kleed ligt over de tafel heen.
location
  the tablecloth  lies over the table  heen
  'The tablecloth is lying over the table.'
b. Jan legt het kleed over de tafel heen.
change of location
  Jan lays  the tablecloth  over the table  heen
  'Jan is putting the tablecloth over the table.'
c. Jan is over de brug heen gereden.
direction
  Jan is over the bridge  heen  driven
  'Jan has driven over the bridge.'

Another special case that we will not discuss here is the phrase op XP na in (107) with the specialized meaning “apart from XP”, which is only used if some universally quantified or negative noun phrase is present in the clause.

107
a. Ik heb alles gelezen op de inleiding na.
  have  everything  read  op  the introduction  na
  'Iʼve read everything apart from the introduction.'
b. Ik heb op Peter na niemand gezien.
  have  op from na  nobody  seen
  'Apart from Peter Iʼve seen nobody.'

Table 10 provides a list of elements that are traditionally assumed to be circumpositions, classified by means of their second part, and provides an example of each case. The discussion of circumpositions in this chapter will take this table as its point of departure.

Table 10: Circumpositions classified according to their second member
2nd part circumposition example
aan achter .. aan achter de optocht aan lopen
'to walk after the parade'
  tegen .. aan tegen de deur aan lopen
'to walk/bump into the door'
af van .. af van het dak af springen
'to jump from the roof'
  op .. af op iemand af lopen
'to walk towards someone'
door onder .. door onder de brug door lopen
'to walk under the bridge'
  tussen .. door tussen de bomen door lopen
'to walk between the trees'
heen door .. heen door het stof heen lopen
'to run through the dust'
  ?langs .. heen ?langs de jongen heen lopen
'to walk past the boy'
  om .. heen om het huis heen lopen
'to walk around the house'
  over .. heen over het heen springen
'to jump over the gate'
in tegen .. in tegen de stroom in lopen
'to walk against the current'
  tussen .. in tussen twee meisjes in zitten
'to sit between two girls'
langs achter .. langs achter het huis langs lopen
'to walk along the back of the house'
  boven .. langs boven de brug langs lopen
'to walk above (along) the bridge'
  onder ..langs onder de brug langs lopen
'to walk down (along) the bridge'
  voor .. langs voor het huis langs lopen
'to walk along the front of the house'
om achter .. om achter het huis om lopen
'to walk around the back of the house'
  buiten .. om buiten het huis om lopen
'to walk around the exterior of the house'
  voor .. om voor het huis om lopen
'to walk around the front of the house'
op tegen .. op tegen de muur op klimmen
'to climb up against the wall'
toe naar .. toe naar Peter toe lopen
'to walk towards Peter'
  op .. toe op Peter toe lopen
'to walk towards Peter'
  tot aan .. toe tot aan de grens toe lopen
'to walk up to the border'
uit achter .. uit achter de kast uit halen
'to get out from behind the closet'
  boven .. uit boven de bomen uit steken
'to stick out above the trees'
  onder .. uit onder haar jas uit steken
'to stick out from under her coat'
  tussen .. uit tussen de papieren uit steken
'to stick out from between the papers'
  voor .. uit voor de optocht uit lopen
'to walk in front of the parade'
vandaan achter .. vandaan achter de boom vandaan komen
'to come from behind the trees'
  bij .. vandaan bij de buren vandaan komen
'to come from the neighbors'
  om .. vandaan om de hoek vandaan komen
'to come from around the corner'
  onder .. vandaan onder de kast vandaan halen
'to get from under the closet'
  tussen .. vandaan tussen de troep vandaan halen
'to get out of the middle of the mess'
  uit .. vandaan uit de kast vandaan halen
'to take out of the closet'
  van .. vandaan van de kapper vandaan komen
'to come from the hairdresser'
  voor .. vandaan voor de auto vandaan trekken
'to pull away from in front of the car'

For completeness' sake, example (108) provides the same set, but now classified according to their first part.

108
Spatial circumpositions classified according to their first part
a. achter .. aan/langs/om/uit/vandaan
j. op .. af/toe
b. bij .. vandaan
k. over .. heen
c. boven .. langs/uit
l. tegen .. aan/in/op
d. buiten .. om
m. tot (aan) .. toe
e. door .. heen
n. tussen .. door/in/uit/vandaan
f. ? langs .. heen
o. uit .. vandaan
g. naar .. toe
p. van .. af/uit/vandaan
h. om .. heen/vandaan
q. voor .. langs/om/uit/vandaan
i. onder .. door/langs/uit/vandaan

It is important to note that not all complex adpositions are part of the set of circumpositions: the complex adpositions tegenover and voorbij in (109a&b) act as prepositions, and the complex adposition voorbij in (b') acts as a postposition.

109
a. Jan zat tegen-over de koningin.
  Jan sat opposite  the queen
  'Jan was sitting opposite the queen.'
b. Jan liep voor-bij het huis.
  Jan walked  past  the house
b'. Jan liep het huis voor-bij.
  Jan walked  the house  past
  'Jan was walking past the house.'
[+]  II.  Circumpositions versus PP + particle combinations: five tests

It is sometimes difficult to decide whether we are dealing with a circumposition or with a verbal particle preceded by a prepositional phrase. This is due to the fact that many of the elements in the first column of Table 10 can also be used as verbal particles, which will become clear by comparing this table with Table 9 in Section 1.2.4, sub II. Therefore, it is useful to design some tests that can be used to establish whether we are dealing with a circumposition or with a construction in which a verbal particle is preceded by some PP. In order to do that, we will compare the syntactic behavior of the two examples in (110). The phrase achter de optocht aan in (110a) is a prototypical case of a circumpositional phrase, whereas neerleggen'to put down' is a typical case of a particle verb.

110
a. dat de kinderen achter de optocht aan renden.
  that  the children  after the parade  AAN  ran
  'that the children ran after the parade.'
b. dat Jan het boek op de tafel neer legde.
  that  Jan the book  on the table  down  put
  'that Jan put the book down on the table.'
[+]  A.  Omission of the sequence P + NP

The sequence P + NP is an inherent part of the circumpositional phrase, and, consequently, omitting this sequence will result in ungrammaticality. This is illustrated in (111a). When we are dealing with a particle verb, on the other hand, there is no a priori reason for assuming that omission of the PP is impossible, and, as is shown in (111b), dropping the PP indeed gives rise to a grammatical result.

111
a. * dat de kinderen aan renden.
  that  the children  AAN  ran
b. dat Jan het boek neer legde.
  that  Jan the book  down  put
  'that Jan put the book down.'
[+]  B.  Pronominalization of the sequence P + NP

The examples in (112) show that locational prepositional phrases can often be replaced by an R-word like daar'there', hier'here', etc.

112
a. De kinderen spelen in de tuin.
  the children  play  in the garden
  'The children are playing in the garden.'
b. De kinderen spelen daar/hier.
  the children  play  there/here

Given that the sequence P + NP is an inherent part of the circumpositional phrase, we do not expect pronominalization of this part to be possible. In the case of a particle verb, on the other hand, the sequence P + NP is an independent PP, and pronominalization is expected to be possible. The examples in (113) show that these expectations are indeed borne out.

113
a. * dat de kinderen daar/hier aan renden
  that  the children  there/here  aan  ran
b. dat Jan het boek daar/hier neer legde.
  that  Jan the book  there/here  down  put

For completeness' sake, observe that R-pronominalization of the nominal complement of the circumposition is possible. The same thing holds, of course, for the complement of the preposition. This is shown in (114), in which the parts of the discontinuous pronominal PPs are given in italics.

114
a. de optocht waar de kinderen achter aan renden
  the parade  where  the children  after  aan  run
  'the parade that the children ran after'
b. de tafel waar Jan het boek op neer legde
  the table  where  Jan  the book  on  down  put
  'the table that Jan put the book down on'
[+]  C.  PP-over-V of the sequence P + NP

The examples in (115) show that the two parts of the circumposition appear in a fixed order. It cannot be changed by PP-over-V of the sequence P + NP. The order of the verbal particle and the PP, on the other hand, can be changed.

115
a. dat de kinderen <achter de optocht> aan renden <*achter de optocht>.
  that  the children     after the parade  AAN  ran
b. dat Jan het boek < op de tafel> neer legde <op de tafel>.
  that  Jan the book    on the table  down  put
[+]  D.  Topicalization

Since circumpositional phrases are constituents, we expect that they can be topicalized, that is, be placed in clause-initial position, as in (116a). If we are dealing with a particle verb, on the other hand, the PP and the particle do not constitute a constituent and we therefore correctly expect it to be impossible to simultaneously topicalize the PP and the verbal particle; (116b) is marginal at best.

116
a. ? Achter de optocht aan renden de kinderen.
  after  the parade  AAN  ran  the children
b. * Op de tafel neer legde Jan het boek.
  on the table  down  put  Jan the book

The contrast between the examples in (116a) and (116b) is perhaps not as sharp as one would desire, given that examples such as (116a) often sound marked as well; it requires contrastive accent on the topicalized phrase, which suggests that topicalization of circumpositional phrases is only possible in contrastive contexts. The markedness of (116a) may therefore be due to the fact that the circumpositional phrase is not explicitly contrasted with another adpositional phrase. A relatively good example is given in (117).

117
Over het hek heen moet je springen, maar onder het hek door moet je kruipen.
  over the gate heen must you jump,  but under the gate door must you crawl
'You have to jump over the gate, but to crawl under it.'

      Since the PP is an independent constituent in the case of a particle verb, we correctly expect it to be able to topicalize if the particle remains in clause-final position, as in (118b). It would appear from example (118a) that circumpositional phrases cannot readily be split under topicalization.

118
a. ?? Achter de optocht renden de kinderen aan.
  after the parade  ran  the children  aan
b. Op de tafel legde Jan het boek neer.
  on the table  put  Jan  the book  down

It is probably not the case, however, that the degraded status of (118a) is due to a syntactic constraint on preposing of the sequence P + NP, given that wh-movement of this sequence is fully acceptable. This shows that splitting circumpositional phrases is in principle possible: the markedness of (118a) is therefore somewhat mysterious.

119
a. Achter welke optocht renden de kinderen aan?
  after which parade  ran  the children  aan
  'After which parade did the children run?'
b. Op welke tafel legde Jan het boek neer?
  on which table  put  Jan  the book  down
  'On which table did Jan put the book?'
[+]  E.  Adnominal use

Since circumpositional phrases are constituents, they can be used adnominally, just like other adpositional phrases. The PP + particle combinations do not form a constituent, and, as a result, they cannot be used in this way.

120
a. het geren achter de optocht aan
  the running  after the parade  aan
  'the running after the parade'
b. de plaatsing op de tafel (*neer)
  the  placement  on the table    down
[+]  F.  Absolute met construction

In principle, the distribution of the P + NP + P sequences in absolute met constructions like (121a&b) could also be used as a test: the circumpositional phrase can be used as the predicate in this construction, whereas the PP + particle normally cannot.

121
a. met de kinderen achter de optocht aan
  with  the children  after the parade aan
b. met de boeken op de tafel (*neer)
  with  the books  on the table  down

This test is less reliable, however, due to the fact that some particles, like aan in (122a), can also be used as the predicative part of the absolute met construction. As a result, we cannot conclude from the acceptability of (122b) that over zijn kleren aan is a circumpositional phrase; see Subsection IIIA, for more evidence. For this reason, we will not use the distribution of the P + NP + P sequences in absolute met constructions as a test to distinguish circumpositional phrases from verbal particles preceded by a prepositional phrase.

122
a. met zijn toga aan
  with  his gown  on
b. met zijn toga (over zijn kleren) aan
  with  his gown  over his clothes  on
  'with his gown on over his clothes'
[+]  G.  Conclusion

Table 11 summarizes the findings with respect to the five tests we have developed in the previous subsections to distinguish circumpositional phrases from verbal particles preceded by a prepositional phrase. The first row indicates whether the sequence P + NP can be omitted, the second row whether this sequence can be replaced by an R-word, and the third row whether it can undergo PP-over-V, that is, whether the word order is fixed or not. The fourth row indicates whether the sequence P + ... + P can be topicalized in full and the final row indicates whether it can be used adnominally.

Table 11: Circumpositions vs. PP + Particle combinations
  circumposition PP + particle
omission of P + NP +
pronominalization of P +NP +
PP-over-V of P + NP +
topicalization of P + NP + P + *?
adnominal use of P + NP + P +

The five tests must be applied with care. More specifically, it is not the case that all PPs preceding a particle verb can be omitted, pronominalized and undergo PP-over-V; there may be independent reasons why these options are blocked. The PP + particle sequence in (123), for example, is fairly well behaved in that it gives a positive result to four of the five tests for assuming that we are dealing with a particle verb; it is only the pronominalization test in (123b) that fails, but this can, of course, be readily explained given that we are dealing not with a locational PP but with a comitative met-PP in (123a), which can never be pronominalized by daar'there'. Note in passing that the number sign in (123b) indicates that this example is acceptable if daar ... mee is interpreted as an instrumental pronominal PP meaning “with it”.

123
a. dat Jan graag (met Marie) mee reed.
omission of P + NP
  that  Jan gladly with Marie  mee  drove
  'that Jan drove gladly along with Marie.'
b. # dat Jan daar graag mee reed.
pronominalization of P + NP
c. Met Marie <??mee> reed Jan graag <mee>.
topicalization
d. dat Jan graag mee reed met Marie.
PP-over-V
e. de reis met Marie (*?mee)
adnominal use
  the journey  with Marie      mee

The PP + particle sequence in (124) gives a positive result to only three of the five tests for assuming that we are dealing with a particle verb: the omission and pronominalization tests in (124a&b) fail. One might use this as evidence for claiming that we are dealing with a circumpositional phrase, which would imply that positive results for the other tests are not sufficient for arguing against a circumpositional phrase. It seems more plausible, however, to assume that the negative results in (124a&b) are due to the fact that the particle verb toe zijn obligatorily selects an aan-PP; the failure of the pronominalization test would then be in line with the fact that PP-complements of verbs cannot be pronominalized either. This means that we should take the data in (124c&e) as sufficient evidence for claiming that we are dealing with a particle verb.

124
a. dat ik wel *(aan een borrel) toe ben.
omission of P + NP
  that  aff     to a drink  toe  am
  'that I could use a drink.'
b. * dat ik daar wel toe ben.
pronominalization of P + NP
c. Aan een borrel <??toe> ben ik wel <toe>.
topicalization
d. dat ik wel toe ben aan een borrel.
PP-over-V
e. de behoefte aan een borrel (*toe)
adnominal use
  the need  for  a drink    toe

The sequence aan mij voorbij gaan in (125), finally, satisfies just a single test in favor of assuming that we are dealing with a particle verb. The first two tests give a negative result in the sense that omission or pronominalization of the PP results in the loss of the idiomatic reading, which may again be related to the fact that the PP is selected by the particle verb. The fourth test gives a negative result in that PP-over-V of aan mij is highly marked. Since adnominal use is excluded regardless of whether voorbij is present or not, we cannot draw any firm conclusion from that either. Therefore, the decision as to whether we are dealing with a circumposition or a particle verb that takes a PP as its complement completely depends on the weight one would like to assign to the topicalization test.

125
a. dat de lol #(aan mij) voorbij ging.
omission of P + NP
  that  the fun    to me  past  went
  'that I couldnʼt see the fun.'
b. # dat de lol daar voorbij ging.
pronominalization of P + NP
c. Aan mij <*voorbij> ging de lol <voorbij>.
topicalization
d. ?? dat de lol voorbij ging aan mij.
PP-over-V
e. * het gaan aan mij (voorbij)
adnominal use
[+]  III.  Application of the tests

This subsection applies the tests discussed in Subsection II the discontinuous sequences in Table 10 in order to establish whether they are indeed circumpositions. The tests will be applied in the order discussed in Subsection II.

[+]  A.  The sequence P ... aan

The examples in (126) show that the sequence achter de optocht aan behaves like a circumpositional phrase: omission and pronominalization of the sequence achter de optocht are impossible, topicalization of achter de optocht aan is somewhat marked but seems possible, and PP-over-V is excluded. Finally, adnominal use of achter de optocht aan is possible.

126
a. dat de kinderen *(achter de optocht) aan liepen.
omission of P + NP
  that the children     after the parade  aan  walked
  'that the children followed the parade.'
b. * dat de kinderen daar aan liepen.
pronominalization of P + NP
c. ? Achter de optocht aan liepen de kinderen.
topicalization
d. * dat de kinderen aan liepen achter de optocht.
PP-over-V
e. het geren achter de optocht aan
adnominal use
  the running  after the parade  aan

The sequence tegen de ladder aan in (127) behaves essentially the same way, and we are again justified in assuming that we are dealing with a circumposition.

127
a. dat Jan *(tegen de ladder) aan liep.
omission of P + NP
  that  Jan    against the ladder  aan  walked
  'that Jan ran into the ladder.'
b. * dat Jan daar aan liep.
pronominalization of P + NP
c. (?) Tegen de ladder aan liep Jan.
topicalization
d. * dat Jan aan liep tegen de ladder.
PP-over-V
e. de schop tegen de ladder aan
adnominal use
  the kick against the ladder aan

The primeless examples in (128) show that the sequence P + NP cannot readily be topicalized, but the primed examples show that wh-movement seems to gives rise to a completely acceptable result.

128
a. *? Achter de optocht liepen de kinderen aan.
a'. Achter welke optocht liepen de kinderen aan?
  after which parade  walked  the children  aan
b. *? Tegen de ladder liep Jan aan.
b'. Tegen welke ladder liep Jan aan?
  against which ladder  walked  Jan aan

This shows again that the ban on topicalization of the P + NP sequence is not of a syntactic nature. This conclusion is supported by the examples in (129), which show that the verb of location staan'to stand' and the verb of change of location zetten'to put' do allow topicalization of the P + NP sequence. It is not clear what causes the contrasts between the primeless examples in (128) and the examples in (129).

129
a. Tegen de muur staat een ladder aan.
  against the wall  stands  a ladder  aan
  'The ladder is standing against the wall.'
b. Tegen de muur zette Jan een oude ladder aan.
  against the wall  put  Jan an old ladder  aan
  'Jan put an old ladder against the wall.'

      Not all sequences of the form P + NP + aan must be analyzed as circumpositional phrases. Consider the examples in (130a) and (131a), which clearly do not involve circumpositions but the particle verb aan trekken'to put on', which is preceded by the prepositional phrases over zijn kleren'over his clothes' and onder zijn toga'underneath his gown'. There are several indications that support this. First, aan can be used as a verbal particle; the (a)-examples show that dropping the sequence P + NP does not affect the core meaning of the clause. Second, the sequence P + NP + aan cannot be topicalized as a whole, that is, the phrases over zijn kleren and onder zijn toga cannot be pied-piped by topicalization of the element aan. Third, the phrases over zijn kleren and onder zijn toga can be placed in clause-final position as the result of PP-over-V. Finally, the sequence P + NP + aan cannot be used in adnominal position.

130
a. dat hij zijn toga (over zijn kleren) aan trok.
omission of P + NP
  that  he  his gown   over his clothes  on  put
  'He put on his gown over his clothes.'
b. * Over zijn kleren aan trok hij zijn toga.
topicalization
b'. Over zijn kleren trok hij zijn toga aan.
c. dat hij zijn toga aan trok over zijn kleren.
PP-over-V
d. de toga over zijn kleren (*aan)
adnominal use
  the gown  over his clothes    aan
131
a. dat hij een spijkerbroek (onder zijn toga) aan trok.
omission of P + NP
  that  he  a jean   under his gown  on  put
  'He put on jeans under his gown.'
b. * Onder zijn toga aan trok hij een spijkerbroek.
topicalization
b'. Onder zijn toga trok hij een spijkerbroek aan.
c. dat hij een spijkerbroek aan trok onder zijn toga.
PP-over-V
d. de spijkerbroek onder zijn toga (*aan)
adnominal use
  the jean  under his gown    aan

Note in passing that Helmantel (2002: appendix) includes examples like (132a&b) as grammatical. For these cases, we cannot assume that aan is a particle, because the verb dragen'to wear' cannot be combined with the particle aan under the intended reading. According to us, however, the examples in (132a&b) are only acceptable without the particle. For completeness' sake, note that Helmantel also gives example (132c) as acceptable; according to us, it is the circumposition voor ... uit that would normally be used in this case.

132
a. Hij droeg een toga over zijn kleren %(aan).
  he  wore  a gown  over his clothes     aan
b. Hij droeg een spijkerbroek onder zijn toga %(aan).
  he  wore  jeans  under his gown     aan
c. % Voor de optocht aan liep de fanfare.
  in.front.of  the parade  aan  walked  the brass-band
[+]  B.  The sequence P ... af

The sequences van ... af and op ... af are the only circumpositions with af as their second member. Example (133) shows that the sequence van ... af satisfies all the tests for circumpositionhood, although the result of the pronominalization test is perhaps not as unequivocal as one might hope; (133b) is perhaps slightly marked. The (c)-examples show that topicalization of the P + NP sequence is degraded, but that wh-movement is allowed.

133
a. dat Jan *(van het dak) af sprong.
omission of P + NP
  that  Jan   from the roof  af  jumped
b. ? dat Jan daar af sprong.
pronominalization of + NP
  that  Jan there  af  jumped
c. ? Van het dak af sprong Jan.
topicalization
c'. ? Van het dak sprong Jan af.
c''. Van welk dak sprong Jan af?
wh-movement
  from which roof  jumped  Jan af
  'From which roof did Jan jump?'
d. * dat Jan af sprong van het dak.
PP-over-V
e. de sprong van het dak af
adnominal use
  the jump  from the roof  af

In (134), we give similar examples for the sequence op ... af. Example (134b) is acceptable, but not with the intended meaning.

134
a. dat de tijger *(op het hert) af sprong.
omission of P + NP
  that  the tiger  towards the deer  af  jumped
  'that the tiger jumped towards the deer.'
b. # dat de tijger daar af sprong.
pronominalization of P + NP
  that  the tiger there  af  jumped
c. ? Op het hert af sprong de tijger.
topicalization
c'. ? Op het hert sprong de tijger af.
c''. Op welk hert sprong de tijger af?
wh-movement
  towards which deer  jumped  the tiger  af
  'Towards which deer did the tiger jump?'
d. * dat de tijger af sprong op het hert.
PP-over-V
e. de sprong op het hert af
adnominal use